Search for “computer scams UK” on the world’s favourite search engine and you get over 5 million results. Start to look through and the first 5 pages all talk about the recent fake phone scams affecting UK home computer users.
The fraudsters prey on computer users’ lack of knowledge where technology is concerned and persuade them that their PC’s are faulty or infected with viruses. They will often say that they can see the computer has been connected to the internet or sending emails, which builds up the fear in the user that someone can see what is going on within their home. They will normally claim to be from a well-known company such as Microsoft or a computer related company to add kudos.
The scammers will then try to gain remote access to the computer with the users help, claiming they will fix the problem and/or will ask for credit card details as payment for resolving a fault that never existed or that they created.
Other scams include emails asking for you to confirm account details, whether that is from a bank, PayPal or other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Hotmail. The emails can look very genuine but no company will ever ask you for your account details via email.
Another scam is a play on the postal courier scam, where a card is left claiming a parcel tried to be delivered and asking you to call a number, which of course is a premium rate number. The electronic version is an email saying the same sort of message but asking you to open an attachment to view the delivery details. This contains a virus and as soon as it is opened the PC gets infected.
Finally, there’s the web based scams. You’re browsing the internet, on a reputable site, and suddenly a pop up says you have loads of viruses. It looks very genuine and so you, understandably, follow the instructions to clean the PC. As soon as you click on the image, a virus is downloaded to the machine and that’s it. if you’re lucky, you’ll get some annoying messages keep appearing and the PC will be a bit slow. More unfortunate users can suffer from the PC becoming unusable.
So how do you avoid the traps?
Generally, no company will telephone you to tell you your computer has a virus. The only exception to this is your broadband or email provider, who may call you if they see a significant amount of email traffic or broadband access which is not normal and exceeds their fair use policies. This may indicate a virus or spamming from your account. Definitely do not allow any one remote access to your PC unless you know who they are, where they are from and you have requested them to do so. Definitely do not give any cold callers access to your PC or credit card details over the phone.
If in doubt take as much information as you can get out of them such as company name, individual name, telephone number etc. and say you will call them back. Most will hang up at this point.
Never give any account information such as passwords or pin codes in response to an email request. Again, if in doubt, telephone the company to confirm that the request is genuine, but check the contact details from your own bank statements or correspondence, not from those given on the email or any associated web links. These can all be spoofed to get you to call the fraudsters.
Be wary of any emails with attachments when you do not know the sender or do not recognise their address. Read emails carefully before opening attachments or clicking on links and remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is! Only open attachments or follow links where you are sure of the sender and that it has genuinely been sent by that person.
Finally, if you are browsing the web and suddenly get a pop up regarding security or virus issues, and it is not from your own anti-virus package, don’t click on anything. Don’t even click the No or Cancel buttons. The best thing to do is to shut down the computer by clicking on the Start button. If this won’t work, hold in the power button until the PC or laptop turns off. It’s not ideal but it will limit damage from the virus.
If you think you have been affected by a scam or virus, check that the PC is working correctly, is not unreasonably slow, has not got more pop-ups or that your web browser is not redirecting you to strange sites. If you get any of these symptoms it’s likely your PC is infected so either contact your anti-virus provider or your local computer repair company to get it looked at quickly.
Generally, with any security issues, the more you use a PC the worse it will get so it’s best to get it checked out quickly. Remember that many viruses will disable or affect installed anti-virus packages but having a good security package installed on your PC, which is kept up to date will help to stop infections to your system and can help in damage limitation and removal should you get a virus or malware.